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A Minuet of Mozart's -- Sara Teasdale

(Poem #1634) A Minuet of Mozart's
 Across the dimly lighted room
 The violin drew wefts of sound,
 Airily they wove and wound
 And glimmered gold against the gloom.

 I watched the music turn to light,
 But at the pausing of the bow,
 The web was broken and the glow
 Was drowned within the wave of night.
-- Sara Teasdale
Today's poem, like many of Teasdale's, is both simple and beautiful in its
simplicity. Teasdale says nothing startling, nothing complex, but with a few
well chosen words paints a softly glowing piece that the reader is enriched
for having experienced. Rather than dissect or gild the poem, therefore, I'd
like to use it as a jumping-off point to discuss some of the more universal
metaphors it uses.

A metaphor is a surprisingly powerful thing - surprising, because many of
them have become so deeply entrenched in human language that it is possible
to use one without ever noticing it on the conscious level. This extends to
literature, where the relationship with metaphors is twofold. First, of
course, is the use of metaphor to add depth and colour, to increase concept
density and and draw on a shared worldview - indeed, metaphor is the very
lifeblood of poetry. But in addition - and, again, this is particularly true
of poetry - it often highlights and scrutinises those metaphors, and forces
the reader to do the same.

Returning to today's poem, the two primary metaphors are music as weaving
and music as light, and the interesting thing is how natural they both seem.
This makes more sense if you note that the metaphors are in some sense
*indirect* - music, light and pattern are three of a small set of 'tangible'
concepts that are consistently used to embody the Platonic Ideal[1], and
hence lend themselves naturally to comparison with each other. (Other
members of the set include mathematics, dance, flight, and, ultimately God -
notice how many poems rest on comparisons within that set. I do not include
Love because it is inevitably the left hand side of such a metaphor, and it
is the right hand side where the implicit metonymy takes place.)

There's also a nice secondary metaphor at the end - both of darkness as a
wave, and of light as a living entity; again, metaphors that have become so
common that we take them in without noticing, but used to very good effect
by Teasdale.

[1] appropriately, they are all shadows cast by the Platonic Ideal of a
Platonic Ideal



Some other metaphor-driven explorations of the Platonic and the numinous:

  Poem #276, "High Flight"
  Poem #599, "Geometry"
  Poem #604, "Euclid Alone has Looked on Beauty Bare"
  Poem #606, "God's Grandeur"

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